Intermediary cities as change agents for wellbeing and education


Nearly 70% of people will live in urban areas by 2050. Intermediary cities, in particular, are expected to undergo extensive transformations and have the potential to become civic smart urban areas where young people and communities can thrive. Fondation Botnar is investing in co-creation of cities fit for young people and our sustainable future, accelerated by the use of  technologies.

In Romania, Fondation Botnar’s legacy country, Cluj-Napoca is the main secondary city and the fastest growing city. With a population of over 320.000 inhabitants, of which one third are students, it is one of the country’s most important and dynamic academic, cultural, social, industrial and innovation hubs. It has also been known as the 2015 European Youth Capital.  However, focus on young people and their quality of life has not yet been integrated in the city strategy. Despite diverse efforts, citizens and key stakeholders are not always aware of the multitude of ongoing youth and wellbeing projects. More work needs to be done to create a shared long-term vision and foster collaboration for common good, identify and address the needs of young people, and improve trust between diverse organizations and citizens in rather fragmented city ecosystem. .

How can Global Development, in collaboration local with its non-profit collaboratory SDG CoLab,  and local public, private and civic partners, help catalyze transformation through OurCity model, towards improving the wellbeing of young people?


We began this journey by immersing ourselves in dynamic and innovative ecosystems in Cluj-Napoca. Utilizing advanced stakeholder mapping methodologies (Smart Maps), assisted with AI technology, we identified networks  among over 80 key stakeholders. Working together with some of the key actors committed to improve the wellbeing of young people, including the municipality, Babeș-Bolyai University, several non-profits,  including Cluj Cultural Center and PONT Group,  Youth Federation, as well as diverse industry clusters, companies and foundations. A series of  formal and informal meetings and roundtables, co-hosted with diverse local partners, helped us identify potential challenges, needs and opportunities for young people, in particular those who are 10-24 years old. In the summer of 2019, we facilitated a co-creation workshop “Co-creating potential initiatives to improve wellbeing and education of adolescents and youth in Cluj-Napoca” to develop a shared vision for OurCluj. OurCluj will serve as a  space to catalyze collective action, programs and communities, that distribute ownership of a shared vision and build local capabilities for continuation of identified priority projects. Initial investments has included  a collaborative needs assessment study (LEAP) and a series of innovative technology-based solutions, such as EduAlert (addressing school drop-outs), MagicHelp (ecosystem support to families of seriously sick children) and Wello (supporting healthy behaviors and nutrition).

This initiative has successfully continued in 2020 in spite of the Covid-19 pandemic. We are planning to create a number of new programmatic initiatives in 2021 in collaboration with the municipality , youth groups and other actors, led and stewarded by the SDG CoLab.


  • Mobilized a collaborative process with local partners to identify young people’s needs and aspirations in the city ecosystem for healthier and more sustainable future;
  • Identified quality of life for young people, with health and wellbeing, and education,  some of the most important directions for the future of the city;
  • Mapped key stakeholders in the city ecosystem interested in improving the wellbeing and education of young people, with focus on 10-24 years old;
  • Conceptualized an initial Learning Hub model that can support local partners in Cluj- Napoca.